‘We Shouldn’t Just Stay in Our Classrooms. We’re Teachers.’
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‘We Shouldn’t Just Stay in Our Classrooms. We’re Teachers.’


– You’ve had a range of
experiences in teaching, overseas, as well,
including Armenia and Japan. What was it like for you
to kind of be the other, to not speak the local language, to be in a different culture? – Well, it was difficult, and that was actually a
really good lesson for me, because they were so welcoming
and willing to move slowly and help me transition
to living in Armenia and so very gracious about my Armenian. In Japan, as well, they
were very nice, as well, but I really felt othered in Japan, partly because I’m extremely tall, and so it was just constant people staring at me every single moment of my life. And then also, I knew I would
eventually get to come home, and that’s one of the big
things that I have utilized in my experiences working with immigrant and refugee students is that
I know what it’s like to go, but I don’t know what
it’s like to have to stay. I chose, I chose to go to Armenia. I chose to go to Japan,
and then I came home, and most of my kids
don’t get to come home. And so, everyday I remember
that, and I remember that feeling of being different and that this isn’t
gonna change for my kids. And so, it’s my responsibility
to ensure that they know that we love them, that we
know that they’re welcome, and that they belong, and we
want them to be here with us. – You work with a lot of
children who have seen a lot of trauma and yet you talk so
much about hope, why is that? – Well, I think because I work
directly with these students. I had one student who came
in at 20, and he’d cut hair for the U.S. Army in Iraq,
and when he came here, we enrolled him in cosmetology school. He managed to get his cosmetology license and is a practicing cosmetologist. And this is all after his father
was murdered by terrorists in front of him, and he was shot himself. These kids have gone
through tremendous trauma, and yet here they are focused and excited. They come to school. They’re respectful. They all have dreams to give back to the communities that welcomed them. That’s hope. – Since you’ve won the
award, this national award, you’ve been described as a
teacher without a classroom. – [Mandy] Yeah. – I’m assuming you stay in
touch with your students? – [Mandy] I do, yeah. – How do you think things
have changed for them? – It’s really like a social
change that’s happened, and some of the kids, there’s
been a lot more conflict within our hallways, and by conflict, I mean
some xenophobic behaviors. So, kids born in the United
States will yell racial slurs at some of our kids. They will say things like,
go back to your country, but that said, my kids are still hopeful. I just received yesterday a
video from one of my students who was another of the teachers
made a little video for me and he said, Miss Manning,
I just want you to know that I just got accepted at
Eastern Washington University, and I’m gonna graduate. And so, there’s a lot of darkness, but there’s a lot of light,
and these kids are so resilient and hopeful, and that’s why we do this. That’s why we fight this fight. – You’ve given so many public
interviews, so many speeches, and it’s still so emotional. – Yeah, well of course. These are beautiful kids. That’s why I do what I do. I love, since the first day I walked into a classroom back in 2001 as the lead
teacher from the first day, and I looked out at my kids
and I saw just the future and how much these kids, like
everything’s in front of them. And I get to be the one
that helps them believe in themselves, and that’s such an honor and such a responsibility. We shouldn’t just stay in our
classrooms, we’re teachers. We should be speaking for all kids.

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